Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ocupado!

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Ocupado!

I’m thinking stabbed fingers and hand/arm/finger cramps count as danger

As I sit here waiting for a sumptuous lunch of fake-Kraft Mac n Cheese (I love its name in Canada even more–Kraft Dinner, aka KD), i am 99% done with my project of this week. (Which is fitting, and you will see why very shortly.)

I decided this was the perfect year to enter the annual birdhouse contest at a store called Phoebe’s Nest. But my initial thoughts were “I can’t think of anything to do!” and “My woodcraft skills are questionable!” Then I thought of something. Not a woodcraft project at all, but a tent, made of (this will surprise no one who has been following along so far) felt.

And like the wildass that I am, I freehanded the whole damn thing (which is occasionally obvious).

And I really really like this project.

Almost every bit of this is made of recycled materials, and the rest from leftovers from past or undone projects, which is one of the things that pleases me about it. The floor and side walls of the tent are made of a sweater I got at a thrift store and felted in the washing machine. I reinforced the floor by sewing a piece of cardboard from a mail order purchase between two pieces of the thick felt.

Two layers of felt with a piece of cardboard sewn between.

I made a frame of a heavier gauge wire from my “I’m going to make jewelry!” phase, slipping it into slits in the floor and sewing it to the tent walls.

Getting the frame in place--o hai thar, foreman!

And attaching frame and walls to floor.

The end flaps are made of a square of a burlappy sort of material that came in a bag of fabric scraps from the costume shop at American Players Theatre.

Pretty purple fabric, trimmed off a costume-in-progress at American Players Theatre.

Then I made the signs from pieces of another thrift shop sweater, needle felting the words on them. As you can see, my freehanding tendencies — and Eyeball once, cut multiple times philosophy — sometimes get the better of me. #Occupy has some serious kerning issues. I did better with the long banner, which may have been helped by felting in We and then 99% and then filling in the middle 2 lines.

The stark black stitching is intentional — those are meant to be tie-strap thingies.

Birds do twitter too.

So woo hoo! Finished! Except not. I really wanted there to be some things inside the tent. So I made a sleeping bag and a matching one that’s rolled up, and a red backpack. And I decided on one more thing, both to make the shape of the backpack less flat, and also because I didn’t like the empty backpack any more than I liked an empty tent. So I made a wee book to go inside. I used stick-on Velcro to put the pieces in place — hooks only, as the felt provides the fuzzy.

Personal effects.

One more bit of verisimilitude to go, and it will be done. So now, full of KD, I go downstairs to photocopy or scan (whichever looks best) the cover of the CD version of an album I owned in vinyl back in the late 70s. It came with a stencil so you could spray paint the cover everywhere, which was my inspiration for making a sign of it.

As it turned out, I photocopied it, but the copy came out black and white. So I added the incandescent yellow of the album graphics with a yellow sharpie. Mod Podged the whole thing onto cereal box cardboard and used staples and a bit of Velcro to place the sign at the mouth of the tent. And this is the version I submitted to the contest:

Occupy Birdhouse

And Tom Robinson, those songs are still pretty relevant today (sad to say). Rock on.

While in past years the birdhouses were all sold and donated to a fund to restore the local theater, this year they will be returned to the artists. So I plan to be showing this at Wiscon this year, where it will probably also be for sale.

“MY GOD, IT’S FULL OF STARS”

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“MY GOD, IT’S FULL OF STARS”

By the time this year is more than halfway through, I suspect the most-used tag will be Fixes for t-shirts I wrecked by dropping food on my rack.

This is the first. Though it was originally kinda ruined when I got bleach spots on the hip. How that occurred I can’t even tell you, since I don’t use bleach in my laundry. It’s a mystery. I was wearing it anyway under a cardigan, but then I dropped something on my rack (it’s always salad dressing or something that won’t quietly disappear in the wash — someone needs to write a scientific paper on the attraction of oily foods to the sizable rack).

So I found a tutorial through Pinterest where that begins with you spritzing bleach all over a black cotton tee, so it seemed like a natural. Plus, it looks really amazing.

You can find the tutorial here:

http://treasuresandtravels.squarespace.com/blog/2012/2/21/diy-galaxy-tee.html

So here’s the shirt I started out with — a nice basic tee that I wasn’t nearly ready to part with yet. Except — crap! Grease stain!

Out, damned spot!

I sprayed the shirt with bleach, and then promptly tossed it in the washer. But here it is, post-spritz.

I love the fine spray of reddish color here.

I dotted around several colors: smudges of matte gray and some iridescent blue and red, using my Shiva oil paint sticks.

Point down, and a little twist of the wrist

Then I smeared around some white glitter paint throughout. The original tutorial used white paint and glitter separately, but I went with what I could find at the megalomart on the way home from work, which has a good fabric section and a crappier crafts section. I wore this once, then decided it needed more glitter. Though I wore it again, I suspect I’ll add some spots of paint by thumb-flicking paint-loaded bristles, rather than flicking the whole brush a la Pollock.

But here is its current form:

Pretty slick, huh?

Though I’m very nervous about it, I’m wanting to try this on a canvas tote, with some handwritten text in a resist medium before I bleach. I think it would make a very cool item for the Wiscon art show — which, HEY, I GOT ACCEPTED!!!

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of Warhol

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Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of Warhol

So yes, a perfect gift for my future sister-in-law. It finally clicked a day or two after I found this great tutorial on painting faux-Warhol portraits, hand painted instead of silk screened:

http://cathiefilian.blogspot.com/2009/02/make-it-artwork-la-warhol.html

Future SIL has a dog that she is just mad about, and the rest of the family finds Zoe adorable too. (And Zoe and my brother are nuts about each other, aww.) So I got my brother to email me some pictures of her, and he informed me that Zoe’s mama particularly loves pictures of her with her ears cocked forward.

This project definitely strayed into I-cut-out-my-own-leaf territory (see my post on second grade art, “The Darkest Depths of Mordor”), both intentionally and unintentionally. My main departure from Cathie’s project is that I chose smaller canvases — a 2-ft. by 2-ft. commitment seems to be a lot to ask of another person’s decor. Plus I had four 5-in. by 4-in. canvases, which adds up to a much more reasonable 8 x 10. Most other departures were accidental. They made a difference, too, but I ended up liking this project a LOT anyway.

For one thing, I had trouble printing out the photo onto actual photo paper (I was too impatient to go through all the figuring out of settings and that, or to waste any more photo paper.), so instead of photocopying a print, I just printed out four originals onto regular paper. I don’t know if that affected my results or not.

It will surprise none of you who read my tale of second grade impetuousness that I JUST NOW discovered I used the wrong kind of brush in painting over the pictures once they were Mod Podged onto the canvas. The materials list says foam brushes, which I totally missed. ::forehead smack:: So there are brushstrokes I could not make go away. (I think they look a little worse in the photos than in person, but some colors were definitely streakier than others. And I wonder if the dark background made those parts tend toward streakiness anyway because of the ink coverage.) They don’t look exactly Warhol like, but I do think they look cool.

Zoe in progress

I decided to dab on a little iridescent gold paint onto the buckle of Zoe’s collar in each print, which gave me the brainstorm of using the same paint (Shiva Sticks oil paint crayons) around the canvas edges. This is a case in which I intentionally made it imperfect, drawing it across the edges and then smudging it into the canvas with my fingers. The two or three times I got a little streak of gold on the edge of the image itself, I left it there. It goes with the streaky look of the painting, and adds an energy to the piece, I think. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. After that, a few coats of varnish for acrylic and oil, and done!

Zoe x 4.

Like I said, it didn’t come out just like the tutorial (which looks pretty awesome), but I still like the result. Just for the hell of it I’ll have to try doing a canvas with the foam brush and see the difference that makes. And maybe next time read a little more closely when I’m diving into a tutorial project….

WARNING: HANDMADE GIFT!!

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WARNING: HANDMADE GIFT!!

Okay, the entirety of the projects on this blog so far are (is?) handmade gifts. And just now I’m beginning to ruminate on the inherent dangers involved? Um. Well.

If the handmade gift is perilous, the late gift is even more so. Because expectations of its awesomeness rise with the length of time you’re working on it (or claim to be working on it). Holy crap, it’s 3 months late, IT MUST BE A ROCKETSHIP THAT WILL TAKE ME TO THE MOOOOOON!! Then if it’s a personal massager made of bottlecaps, it’s kind of hard to come back from those expectations.

On top of that issue, there’s the thing when you are making something for someone awesome who is going to be in the family soon (and pretty much already is, as far as we’re concerned), and you don’t want said someone to think you dug up something you made in Vacation Bible School (back mumbly-mumble years ago) with popsicle sticks. Which was the case for me with Awesome Future Sister-in-Law, who has been an absolute treasure, doing an enormous amount to help the whole family get through some really hard times this year. She’s also funny and pragmatic and fierce and protective. So we all adore her to pieces.

Which means there were several gift ideas thought of and rejected before I remembered a tutorial I found through Pinterest. But I’m going to give that project its own post — mostly because I like the title and it would be a crime to let it go to waste.

So that happened…

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So that happened…

Zombie cake is not relevant to this post, but it was made by me.

I seem to have rented a booth at a permanent flea market.

Well, it’s a local store in the midst of changing from dollar store-type merch to indoor flea market, and I’ve put my app in for a small booth when they’ve finally cleared the space for the second room. It might be something I’d move crafts into eventually but for now I’d love to get rid of some of the furniture that’s jamming my garage. I’ve got kitchen gadgets I bought in a fit of ambition that I’ve never or rarely used, too.

Reasonable rent, no yearly contract, no requirement to sit and hang over my stuff at all, and the advertising’s all taken care of.

Woo hoo!

There should be a German word for this…

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And maybe there is.

That feeling you get when you’re in the middle of a project (or six) and you think about it at random points during the day and how the minute you get home you’re going to dive right in. But by the time you get home, all the energy and urgency has been completely sucked away. I often blame it on my commute, but I ended up working from home yesterday due to an eye infection that needed another day of treatment before I wasn’t Eye Goo Mary in the workplace, and I STILL lost my energy.

Though maybe that was due to another factor. I did start something last night, a project that will involve cutting down the front of a tunic I’m making into something else. Instead of doing the sloppy free-hand thing, I measured to the halfway point all the way up from the hem, being super careful about it … and it doesn’t look even! ::shakes tiny fist at the Universe:: So that sapped my will to cut the thing and possibly botch it (also considering the whole eye thing makes me tired and cranky, not the best state of mind for doing irrevocable things). So I contented myself with getting out the seam ripper and undoing the crossover neckline so I can find the center at the neckline.

So I don’t quite know how to proceed. Just find the center at at the hem and power on up to the center at the neck, and ignore the little dots I carefully placed? Or cut along the dotted lines and ignore the ones that seem off-kilter?

I feel like I should rewatch that episode of Farscape with the alien dudes (everyone on the show is an alien, including the Earth guy, which is why I like it) who keep shouting, “WHY SO DIFFICULT?!

Because dude. Why so difficult?!

The Darkest Depths of Mordor (AKA Second Grade)

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This probably says more about me and my lack of perseverance to become perfectly adept at things than anything else, but I have to say I always thought that artists who intentially weave or build imperfections into their work so as not to seem to be attempting to imitate God are … well, kinda arrogant.

If I ever turn out a piece of work that to me embodies total perfection, I might think, “YEAH, I nailed that,” but I’m not going to go on to believe I’m God or even godlike. I might feel like a rock star for about fifteen minutes. Or until I see someone who rocked the same type of work even harder.

So … yeah. I probably strive for perfection less than I should.

There’s this story I have about my first day of second grade. The teacher, who had a name that would serve some fantasy writer brilliantly as the name of some species vaguely stolen from the Nazgul, handed out little squares of cardboard for us to cut out templates for construction paper leaves. I somehow missed the information that the leaf had already been drawn on the cardboard and we were supposed to cut along the lines. The outline was on the reverse side of the square I got, so I just (as I so often do) dived right in and started cutting freehand.

When Mrs. Ringwraith got the drift of what I was doing, she held up my purportedly crappy leaf template and announced to the class that mine was different from anyone else’s and wrong wrong WRONG, and I’d just have to wait until some other kid got done with his or her template and I could use it to make some acceptable construction paper leaves.

(Way to just half-ass your first-day bulletin boards there, lady. Palm it off on the kids. Don’t think I don’t see what you did there.)

So acceptable art is what’s like what everyone else is doing, and all leaves happen to be maple leaves. All righty then!

Y’know, as a kid I should have been a teacher’s dream. I’m smart, I like reading and thinking, and I want to be liked by teachers, workshop leaders, etc. But Mrs. R continued to be impossible to please, and she loved to call me out in front of the whole class when I did something that wasn’t up to her specifications. Including the only F I ever got. (Which was for the time I had circled the right answers as instructed and then got so…freakin…bored waiting for everyone else to finish that I underlined all the wrong answers for something to do.

But there was one thing this woman didn’t factor in, and that’s the fact that I’m stubborn as hell and have been pretty much since I was born. So Mrs. Ringwraith, wherever you are in the afterlife, rest assured that I still freehand shit, for good or ill.

There’s art that I love that is marvelously intricate or luminous or beautifully drafted — something that makes me feel in awe of the work that went into it, and makes me wish I could do something like that. But I also love art by self-taught artists, works by outsider artists and people with a wild and strange vision that they have to impart. Not that these works can’t be incredibly intricate and beautifully crafted — witness the baseball-card sized scenes embroidered from sock thread by Ray Materson while he was in prison:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ray-Matersons-Artwork-Fine-Embroidery-Images/207733692591347

I love the energy and passion of these self-taught artists. I have some of the same tastes in music — my progression through a genre of music usually starts with what’s current and then tracks back through influences until I get to what’s a little rawer.

You won’t, however, be reading the phrase “spirituality of imperfection” anywhere but in this here post. Back when I was in publishing, I wrote flap copy for a book on this topic. All I had to work with was a ten page introduction but no actual work or outline (which did not even exist at the time), and I did the best I could. Some time later the editor showed me the authors’ response to my work, and it was one of the two snottiest author notes I ever saw. So that phrase never achieved the ring of sincerity for me.

So there you have it, a little manifesto. This probably isn’t the place to be looking for perfection, but I hope to provide some entertaining and passionate pieces, and I do promise at some point that I’ll share some of my crappier creations. They are good for a laugh, I guarantee.

FELTBOMBS AWAY!!! for AMOK Project #4

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FELTBOMBS AWAY!!! for AMOK Project #4

So March 4th is the day Misha Collins decreed for “a melee of kindness” worldwide (“march forth” — I see what you did there, Misha.) And since we all do his biddings like dittoheads defend Rush, I plotted my outing. I decided why the hell not blend it with the crafts project, but I wasn’t sure what form that would take. And then I saw a link somewhere (wish I could remember where) to Operation Beautiful, which involves posting little messages, usually on bathroom mirrors in public places, but elsewhere as well, to give a lift to those who see them.

So it all came together in an idea to make feltbombs of kindness. I love the whole yarnbombing phenomenon, where knitters fix “graffiti” made of yarn in public areas. I don’t knit (yet) but I have plenty of sweaters, a number of which resist felting, so what do you do with those? I wanted something that would be a pop of color on a gray winter day in the downtown area, so I dug up a pink sweater that had refused to felt, so I cut off the sleeves and needle felted messages on them.

Disarming messages

Most of the messages were felted onto the uncut tube of a sleeve section, with the cuts at the right and left sides, so I could drape them over a small tree branch. One I felted so that the cuts were at the top and bottom to put over a fencepost at the arts center that has meant so much to me. One last one I cut open and made a sort of baby-bib hanger so I could get the whole message on one side.

State Street feltbomb.

I was already going to Madison today to go to a reading by my friend Renee D’Aoust from Idaho, and so I met up for lunch with another friend from Idaho who now lives in Madison. As I told her about AMOK and Dangerous Crafts for Girls, I showed her m little felties, and suddenly I had a confederate! Woo hoo!

We hung one outside of A Room of One’s Own, the bookstore where the reading was, and it was a perfect spot — there are no trees out in front of it, but ugly new parking meters provided a perfect “neck” for the baby bib. And the message was a nice fit, too.

A random act of awesome.

And here are ones we hung on trees:

This one I hung across the street from a fire station.

On State Street, in view of the Capitol.

Renee’s reading from her book of essays, Body of a Dancer, was terrific — she performs as much as reads, and there were a lot of knowing laughs from people who came who were or are in the dance world, especially in response to her voices of people she studied with. And there was a raffle! And I won it! I got a $20 gift certificate to the bookstore, so while Renee met up with people she’d arranged to spend a few hours with, J and I wandered the bookstore and I found three books, which meant I spent a chunk of money beyond the certificate — which I consider a random act of kindness for an indie bookseller on top of the RAOK of the gift cert.

My last feltbombing was for the arts center. It was the last bit of twilight as I drove up the street and skulked onto the grounds to deliver my little prezzie.

I added a feltie to the already arty painted fence.

All in all an excellent day of kindness and reconnecting with friends and craftiness.

So do you think I should send the remainder of this sweater to Rick Santorum?

No way sweater vests are coming back.

Aside

Getting into a political pissing match on Twitter.

This is what happens when famous political commentator retweets you and then all the people who have to tell you why you are wrong come out in force. (And they all have such a tone.)

Argh. Was going to post my project a day early, but now I’m all grrrr and have no wise things to say about the creative process.

Things that are not good for the creative mindset #371: